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Workstation build for SolidWorks, where to put the $$$

Workstation build for SolidWorks, where to put the $$$

Workstation build for SolidWorks, where to put the $$$

We are looking to upgrade our workstations to get a smoother experience. I would appreciate any input anyone might have on getting the best balance on the hardware. For our scenario, we have SolidWorks, Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop, and Outlook open all day every day, as well as multiple internet browsers and explorer windows. We spend quite a bit of time rendering out images in PhotoView 360. Our larger assemblies can get to about 6500 parts and can contain many clear plastic parts. We use decals heavily. Currently, we have dual 4 core xeons at 2.5ghz, 24gb of ram, SSD, and a 1gb nvidia quadro video cards. These machines are 9 years old however.

Of course we use the many settings within SW to improve performance, such as turning off decals, using large assembly mode, etc, etc,.

Minimums I will include regardless are 32gb ram, 3gb video card, and an SSD. My real hang up is what to do with the procs. More cores at lower clock speed or fewer cores at higher clock speed? The constraint being budget of course, I'd like to stay within $3k to $4k, not including monitors or peripherals. Any thoughts?

RE: Workstation build for SolidWorks, where to put the $$$

Because SolidWorks rebuilds things in sequence from the ground up, it can't really do much parallel processing so it's going to give best performance by pushing the needle on clock speed.

Renderings can use multiple cores, and even multiple machines working in parallel, so more cores help you there.

The core debate is pretty much going to come down to which one loses you more time: rendering or modeling? Do you sit motionless for minutes at a time waiting for rebuilds, but when rendering you kick it off and then go do other productive work? Maybe you go with faster clock. Do you need those renderings done as fast as machinely (as opposed to humanly) possible? Pack in them cores!

RE: Workstation build for SolidWorks, where to put the $$$

Handleman - You're right, which is exactly why I'm hoping someone can give input with some recent experience on the newer hardware out. I can make a guess based on my 9 year old machines but I'm not sure how things stack up today. I was looking at dual procs with 10 cores at 2.2ghz with 3.0ghz turbo. This would likely render great(20 cores), but I'm not sure if the clock speed is enough for modeling. I don't have experience with the newer "turbo" features of the xeons. Do I go with a faster 8 core processor? Dual 4 core? Will the higher clock speed make up for the overall lack of cores when rendering? I don't have the hardware to test it out before I purchase and I don't want to find out later that I guessed wrong.

RE: Workstation build for SolidWorks, where to put the $$$

I last used SW when your machines were new, but I think SW still uses only one core, so maybe you want to put SW on a fast dual or even single core machine.

Back then, I was forced to use a CRM app that brought our dual core machines to their knees, what with checking whatever it checked with all the salesmen's machines all the time. I solved that problem by demanding that IT provide a second machine, an old, slow thing that no one wanted anyway. I moved the CRM app, and Outlook, and browsers, and whatever else I could, to that machine.

Relieving the SW machine of the duty of running all the other crap greatly sped it up.

As for rendering, maybe you could offload that, too, to a machine with a bazillion cores. Maybe even a headless server could do it.

Mike Halloran
Pembroke Pines, FL, USA

RE: Workstation build for SolidWorks, where to put the $$$

We do a fair amount of rendering and simulating but not on anything nearly as large as your describing (most of our stuff is only 15 parts). However, We just recently had one user that upgraded from a 4.5 year old laptop with quad I7 (2.8ghz with self over clocking to 3.1ghz I think), 16gb ram, 2gb quadro video and 5000rmp hard drive to a laptop with a Xeon E3-1535 (3.1ghz with self over clocking), 32gb ram, 4gb quadro video card and a ssd hard drive. Our rendering times dropped significantly. One a 1920 x 1080 time difference was only 1/2 time, 8-4 minutes. When we rendered the same image at 17778 x 10,000 the difference was 1/4 the time, 5+ hours to just over an hour. The producs were roughly 2 inches long, .75 inches wide and 1/2" tall. The top piece is a clear plastic with some areas textured.

I would expect to see a hug difference in speed compared to what you use to have. If you spend most of your time rendering then I would look at more middle of the road Xeon processors with 8-12 cores. If you are spending most of your time modeling then go with the 4-8 cores in Xeon.

I am not sure how you will get what you want for the cost but you may not be limitted who you can purchase your system from. We are limitted to Lenovo and the above system costs ~3000 with docking station. In my experience there is not a huge price difference with Lenovo between their workstation laptops and desktops.

RE: Workstation build for SolidWorks, where to put the $$$

6500 parts isn't THAT crazy.

From what you're describing- heavy use of rendering- I think you want to shade more toward core counts than outright single thread speed.

Going from a lightning fast dual to a slower 8-core or whatever will result in slower modeling, but if you really render that much you'll make up the difference when you don't have to render for 6 hours.

RE: Workstation build for SolidWorks, where to put the $$$

I would think you can find a fair compromise with the new Xeon line, Between the W-2125, W-2135, W-2145 and the W-2195 they have different clock speed, number of cores, number of threads and obviously different price tags but they all offer a turbo boost around 4.3 and 4.5 ghz and that's the max you can have right now without going the overclock road. You'll have to decide where to put the line between price and number of core/threads according to your expected use of the workstation.

Or you can go with a Boxx renderpro for rendering and a separate workstation for designing!


RE: Workstation build for SolidWorks, where to put the $$$

Not too common to see others who need to bust out renderings, so your needs are definitely different than the mainstream along this topic.

Last year I finally got around to building a new system and bucked the typical trend---and am glad I did. Here's what I'm running:
  • Intel Core i7 4790K (eight threads, four cores, 4GHz per thread!)
  • 16GB RAM (don't need more, can add it later if necessary)
  • AMD FirePro W5100 (I get along better with this than any of the pricy nvidia stuff I've had in the past)
  • Samsung SSDs
  • Windows 7 Professional (64-bit)
I've run Xeons and nvidia stuff in most of my past work-stations, and they've done just fine. Fried a pricy nvidia card a couple of years ago on a 3D game and replaced it with the FirePro. Love it, plus it handles games, video, etc. better than my expensive nvidia card. Why go back?

The other odd item in my list is this Core i7 processor, which for what I do, is excellent! VERY fast renders, and with the high 4+GHz clock speed model generation is also very fast (as Mike mentioned above, you're still heavily dependent on a single-thread process for model generation, so go with a high clock speed). Rendering and modeling speeds excellent at a decent price.

Last is Windows 7. It's superior to 8 and 10 for what I do--by a HUGE margin. Windows 10 is high-maintenance and difficult to work with considering arbitrary, difficult-to-control bloated updates (4-6GB downloads) that frequently break things---no thanks. I usually have three browsers open, often with Photoshop, email, explorer windows, Excel, etc. and this machine handles all this with ease. The one area I differ from your situation is most of my assemblies are much smaller than 6,500 parts. Add more RAM if necessary, and that may cure the problem.

You'll most likely not be able to (easily) use Windows 7 these days because motherboards that support it are extremely difficult to find. That's a bummer. Maybe Microsoft will continue to tune in 10 to make it less consumer-oriented and more business-oriented and this will fade into being a non-issue. Until then, this machine was cheap to build and I can always upgrade it later if desired/needed. And it's as versatile as it is FAST!

Jeff Mowry
A people governed by fear cannot value freedom.

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